Fledgling DC Metro Faces Trouble From Unionized Workforce

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Ted Goodman Contributor
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The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) threatened to pursue further legal action if unionized employees continue to refuse to work overtime shifts.

The Metro’s warning follows its federal lawsuit asking the court to vacate an arbitrator’s ruling on overtime that sided with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 (ATU), the union that represents Metro workers.

“Metro is aware of potentially unlawful and disruptive labor action threatened by the leadership of ATU Local 689,” Paul Wiedefeld, Metro’s general manager and chief executive said Monday. The union sent out a robocall message to its members Sunday, asking workers to refrain from working more than 40 hours beginning March 1.

Wiedefeld was responding to ATU Local 689’s Sunday call, which the union asserts was an immediate reaction to Metro’s Feb. 24 lawsuit.

Metro’s suit challenges a ruling that union members with top seniority must be allowed to report to work for a seventh consecutive day, instead of being paid to stay home after six straight days, which is a part of Metro’s fatigue management policy.

“Metro must be in a position to enforce safety policies for its employees,” Wiedefeld argued in statement Friday. The union proceeded to tell its employees to refrain from working overtime hours, which prompted the warning from Metro Monday.

The DC Metro system has experience a series of mishaps and service interruptions in recent years, due to decades of neglect and poor management.

The failures of the Metro system can be attributed to the fact the agency lacked a robust institutional safety consciousness, its maintenance regime was basically “negligent” and the system lacked a “steady, dependable” source of financing, according to a Washington Post report.

Metro’s current agreement with the union stipulates how overtime is awarded without a fatigue clause. Under the current collective bargaining agreement with ATU Local 689, workers are paid time-and-a-half for work completed in a day off, and they are paid double for working a second day off, which is the seventh day.

Metro is asking a court to overturn the arbitrator’s ruling, in order to allow the system to enforce a fatigue management policy. The move would also save money for the troubled transit system.

The Metro system serves the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area which is home to approximately four million people. Daily ridership for the 40 year old system is between 700,000 and 800,000 commuters.

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